Definition of Youth

The national youth policy (2006) of Kenya defines youth as between 15-30 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • XX
  • Female
  • 18
  • --
  • XX

  • No data for female marriageable age with parental consent. Homosexual acts illegal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
From 8-12 years old, the state must prove criminal capacity. A child below 8 cannot be held legally responsible for their actions. Source:  Penal Code of Kenya

Majority Age


Source: Age of Majority Act (1974)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 85.21% Male (15-24) %
  • 86.59% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 51.55%Male %
  • 48.40% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 14.90% Male (13-15) %
  • 14.50% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The national youth policy of Kenya was adopted in 2006, followed by a strategic plan. Both will be renewed.

The national youth policy (2006), “visualizes a society where youth have an equal opportunity as other citizens to realize their fullest potential, productively participating in economic, social, political, cultural and religious life without fear or favour.” The strategic plan (2007-2012) provides a detailed action plan for the implementation of the eight strategic areas:

  1. Employment;
  2. Empowerment and Participation;
  3. Education and Training;
  4. Information Communication Technology;
  5. Health;
  6. Crime and Drugs;
  7. Environment;
  8. Leisure, Recreation and Community Service;
As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Kenya is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The strategic plan (2007-2012) had mandated the Department of Youth Development to develop youth policies and programmes. Then, the Ministry of Youth Affairs assumed responsibility but, as reported in Africa Review in April 2013, was disbanded after the 2013 elections. In the 2014 budget policy statement, “Youth Development and Empowerment Services” were listed under the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, which sits under the Office of the President, however it is unclear if this ministry has taken over the duties of the now-defunct Ministry of Youth Affairs.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Youth Council of Kenya (NYC-Kenya) was established in the National Youth Council Act (2009) in response to the election violence of 2008. The Act mandates the NYC-Kenya to coordinate youth activities and organisations along with supporting the national youth policy. According to the official Facebook Page, legal challenges initially prevented the establishment of the council, but the first elections took place in 2012. However, it notes that there is no operational budget. The National Youth Council is a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
KES 26.4 billion
USD 307.4 million
According to the 2014 budget policy statement, the draft budget 2013/14 for “Youth Development and Empowerment Services” under the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, was KES 26.4 billion (USD 307.4 million). According to the World Bank, Kenya spent 17.21% of its government expenditure and 6.67% of its GDP on education provision in 2010.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The strategic plan (2007-2012) provides a situational analysis of life in Kenya for young people:
Young people in Kenya today live in complex and challenging times. The political and social turmoil of the 1990s left scars that today are being borne disproportionately by young people. By 2000, Kenya’s economy was at its lowest point since independence, with 56 percent of the population living in poverty and a negative growth rate of 0.2 percent. This economic environment inevitably had a destructive impact on the social fabric of the country. Despite this gloomy picture however, developments in more recent years have given grounds for optimism. One such development has been the creation of a Ministry of State for Youth Affairs.
Seventy-five percent of Kenya’s population is under 30 years of age. Young people – using the term to include those between 15 and 30 years of age – number 10.8 million or about 32 percent of the 2005 population projection. Of these, 57% are female and they form about 60% of the total active labour force in the country. However due to high levels of unemployment, most of them have not been absorbed in the job market.
Whilst many challenges face young people, undoubtedly the most acute is the inability to access employment – the lack of opportunities to earn a decent and honest living. It is this that drives young people into crime and drugs, and into a general state of hopelessness and despair. The issue of creating employment opportunities for the youth (formal, informal and self employment) needs therefore to be addressed urgently and with the kind of resources, focus and commitment as has been directed at HIV/AIDS. There is need for a “Marshal” plan as was used to re-settle landless people after independence. In fact, an investment in building the capacity of Kenyan youth by targeted interventions and in addressing their specific needs in terms of education, skills training and gainful employment is seen as imperative for national development and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals in Kenya by 2015. This Strategic Plan offers a coherent, ambitious but realizable road map to address this and other challenges facing young people.
It also notes specific challenges with implementing the national youth policy (2006):
Despite the above, there are a number of challenges faced while implementing youth policies. These include:
  • High population growth rate among the youth which exerts pressure on available resources.
  • Low economic growth rate.
  • An education system in the country that produces graduates who are 
neither properly equipped for entry to the job market nor possess the 
necessary life skills.
  • Government Ministries, youth organizations and international agencies 
that have their own individual youth programmes and policies which are 
not harmonized. This leads to duplication of efforts and limited impact
  • Lack of adequate resources to run youth programmes.
Existing structures within public and private sectors and the prevailing 
attitudes that do not provide an enabling environment for the youth to participate in decision-making, planning and implementation processes.
From the UNDP Kenya National Youth Report (2009):
Even though considerable effort has been made to provide education, training and entrepreneurial skills for the youth, most Kenyan youth lack the skills and experience to be successfully absorbed into the labour market or start their own businesses.
ICT is the fastest growing business sector in Kenya with youth filling the majority of positions. Access to technology is spreading rapidly and has proven to be an effective tool for development through its ability to foster information exchange and allow youth the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions.
The formulation of the National Youth Policy and the establishment of the National Youth Council are important advances towards enhancing youth development in Kenya. Nevertheless, the youth policy falls short of offering specific affirmative guidelines on the representation of the youth in governance bodies at local, regional and national levels.